As a parent of a special-needs child, you have a huge responsibility and role to play in shaping your child’s progress, growth and development. It might seem like you have more significant challenges, but playing an active role, but doing so will positively influence your child’s path. Special-needs children may need a specific set of parental skill sets that differs from other children.
Being a parent of a special-needs child can be an emotional roller coaster, alternating between grief, anger and denial. For you to navigate away from all these negative emotions and begin to focus on contributing positively to your child’s potential, you will have to understand the impact of a special needs child on the family intricately.
How does having a special needs child affect a family?
Families that have a special needs child are faced with unique challenges that may never occur in homes with typical parents. These challenges are capable of straining parental and familial bonds. They include:
Marital challenges and divorce
Families where caring for a special needs child is poorly managed may be prone to marital conflict and challenges, which can ultimately lead to divorce and dissolution of marriage. According to statistics, the rate of divorces in homes with special needs children can be as high as 70%. Parents of special needs children experience a high level of stress in caring for their children. This stressful situation can cause marital neglect because parents may be extremely focused on meeting their child’s need that they do not remember their marital commitments and obligations. They rarely spend time with each other, causing a severe strain on their relationship.
Parents of children with special needs have reported issues like marital dissatisfaction and maternal depression. These issues emanate from their inability to communicate effectively due to the heightened stress.
Most families with special needs children are known to display great resilience and strength. Parents who adapt successfully to the pressure of living with a special need child may begin to show support to one another, in a display of positivity. Studies have shown that with increased acceptance, parents with a special need child will be able to communicate better, which is essential for an atmosphere of optimism.
Over the years, the cost of clinically diagnosing special-needs conditions has increased. Equally, the cost of therapies and special learning environment have met a lot of increment. Some parents who have special needs children may experience a financial burden that parents of typical children never undergo. According to USDA, over three hundred thousand dollars will have to be spent in raising a single child with special needs. A separate study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association estimates that it costs 1.4 million dollars to raise a child on the autism spectrum. For low-income families, this financial burden can be very overwhelming.
What are the most challenging aspects as the parents of children with special needs?
Being a parent is hard, but being a parent of a child with special needs is more complicated. Here are some of the challenging aspect most parents with special needs are faced with:
A big challenge that parents of children with special needs face is communication challenges. This is because special needs children may be burdened by sensory, psychological or mental complexities, which may affect the way they express themselves. For instance, some may have selective mutism, speech impediment or apraxia. Parents may be frequently faced with the challenge of guessing their children’s daily needs or well-being.
Lack of empathy and understanding from others
Others may not understand the challenges associated with raising special-needs children. People view special-needs children with a lot of prejudices and lack of empathy. These negative perceptions towards special-needs children can be from members of family, friends and strangers.
Struggles of parents with special needs children
Loneliness and Isolation
Parents with special-needs children face the reality of loneliness and isolation. Friends and family members may avoid these parents because of the discomfort and tough experience. Special needs parents may not have time for social activities because they are too busy watching over and supporting their children. This situation can cause stress and tends towards being overwhelmingly depressing.
With the constant feeling of loneliness a special needs parent faces, depression can creep in. This depression may also emanate from sorrow and regret. The pains of ending up with a child whose future is ‘in question’ can haunt these parents and cause them to relapse into grief.
Stress and worry
Naturally, the job of being a parent can be stressful, especially in the early stage. For special needs parents, it is extra-stressful. They have to show their children extra care and attention while juggling other responsibilities. They may also panic about the unknown and unexpected. This may cause serious worry.
Responsibilities of a special needs parent
Talk to others
Seeking support from others can strengthen you. If you are struggling with the challenges associated with raising a special needs child, then you need to open up and strategise on how to create a support system. You can discuss with your paediatrician about health issues, your child’s teacher for tips on getting your child academically geared up and join a special needs parents support group on Facebook where you can discuss solutions.
Cater for yourself
You can’t be the best parent for your child if you are not the best version of yourself. As a special needs parent, you will need time to unwind and relax. You can exercise, take a walk with your kid, read a book etc.
Pay attention to your relationship
Special-needs parents tend to work less on their relationship because of the pressure that comes with raising a special-need child. Ensure you communicate with your partner while taking the time to be together alone occasionally. Be emphatic and pay more attention to your partner; it will help prevent a build-up of resentment.